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How to Use Social Media to Listen for Potential Clients, and Generate Leads

You've heard it all before (probably from this very website): Having an active and engaged online presence is a surefire way to boost the image of your business - and generate new leads via inbound marketing.

But here's the thing. In today's digital landscape, what it means to be "active" is a little different than ever before. Social media platforms, for instance, have changed and adapted with the times, and users are more sophisticated than ever before.

But still, we're willing to bet you're at least keeping up with the basics. You know you're supposed to create original content, post on Facebook, tweet, and maintain a super awesome website that keeps bringing customers back for more.

But all of that - the creation and sharing of content - is just one piece of the puzzle. 

Your social media voice has been active - but how much have you really been listening?

What is Social Listening? 

Social listening, also known as "social prospecting," can be thought of as the process of tracking specific phrases, brands, or words across conversations on social media platforms, in order to find potential clients. 

Let's go into a little more depth about how - and, most importantly, why - this works.

First, let's consider the two-step processes that plenty of brands use on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social platform right now:

Step 1.) You post, tweet, or otherwise send out your content to your followers, your prospective clients

Step 2.) Prospective clients like what they see, and reach out to you, by clicking through to your website or completing a social call to action 

This process isn't bad, certainly. In fact, we know that it is actually incredibly productive to make your presence known online in this way. Sharing your content is a great way to bolster your social followers, encourage retention, and help generate backlinks, which will in turn help out with your SEO efforts.

But maybe we should also take a look at social media in a different way. Because, the thing is, you could be getting even more out of your existing social media profiles with just a slight shift in your focus. The key? Think about social media from a users' perspective first; put people at the center of the equation, rather than your own brand.

Here's what that looks like: 

Step 1.) Potential clients post, tweet, and openly pose questions that need to be answered, or problems that have solutions, which you can help with

Step 2.) You read these posts, reach out to the potential clients, and answer the client's social media queries, guiding them toward your conversion funnel

Looking for examples, our team often thinks back to a story told by Gary Vaynerchuk. The internationally recognized business guru spoke to real estate agents a few years back who were complaining about Twitter being a waste of time. You can probably guess a few of the complaints off the top of your head: That the agents weren't generating interest on social media, or how difficult it was to "cut through the noise" on the crowded social platform.

Vaynerchuk countered with a bold statement that has become somewhat of a Geek Chicago mantra:

"Twitter should be about listening and not talking."

Vaynerchuk states that he sat down for 15 minutes and was able to find 13 tweets that real estate agents should be engaging with. Yep. How's that for a new social media equation? 15 minutes of Twitter searches = 13 potential clients. 

Was it difficult for him to find these tweets? Nope. He just searched simple terms like "looking for an apartment" and "house hunting," and voila! Tweets that a real estate agent could easily respond to, connected to real people whom they could confidently offer their services to. All warm leads - that is, consumers already actively seeking out help but unsure of where to go to get it. 

A little searching and scanning with keywords related to your field can easily yield a handful of customers who could benefit from your expertise and services. This works across multiple social platforms, and we'll break down the different approaches you can take on each network in a second. 

Getting Started With Keywords

Before that, there are some fundamentals to consider - including the way you find and make contact with these interested parties. The first step is to begin to more actively consider your mentions and notifications to see who is actually tagging you in posts; these people are trying to reach you for a reason - either to solicit your help, or to address a concern with your product or service.

Either way, you'll want to be able to respond and react to these direct tags quickly; as we've written before, 78% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour, and 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. One of the most effective ways to keep track of the conversations happening about your brand on social media is to set up a reputation management workflow. Geek can help you set up a reputation management process; once it's active, you'll be able to easily solicit new reviews and mentions online, and quickly monitor what's said about you everywhere, all from one convenient hub.

Of course, as the Sprout blog notes, not all of the key references for your brand are happening in your mentions or comment threads; in fact, according to Sprout, "a whopping 30% of Tweets mentioning your company don’t include your Twitter handle," and "only 9% of tweets are actually directed at your brand." 

With that in mind, an important step to finding new clients is knowing what keywords they'll be likely to use in their personal posts, or use as a hashtag (those little number symbols, "#", followed by a word or phrase related to their statement: #geekchicago #technology #socialmedia, for example). To get started, you'll want to...

  • Brainstorm a list of keywords that pertain to your brand
    If you're a gardener, for example, you might have have a list with items such as "gardening, landscaping, lawn, organic, green." These may be similar to the keywords you use to guide your SEO keywording efforts
  • Pick a top four
    Once you've brainstormed a substantial list, pare it down to the four keywords that you care about the most, and are directly linked to your services. While you may enjoy "petunias," for example, it would most likely be better to go with a word like "landscaping" or "safe garden" as these could be linked to questions/inquiries that you could answer.
  • Consider your reach
    Do you need your clients to be able to come to your brick-and-mortar store or live in a service area? Always consider if location is a deal breaker for you, as this will limit which conversations you can engage with on Twitter or Facebook. 
  • Consider a social monitoring tool
    We're going to go into the manual ways to monitor your social networks for potential leads in a second, but it's important to realize that this a process that must be done again and again. If you don't have the time and manpower to find and respond personally to dozens of tweets a day, keep in mind that there are plenty of social marketing platforms used by brands and even digital marketing agencies. Besides our in-house reputation management tool, known as Birdeye, there are other platforms that can help you track and engage with social media activity. We break down a few that are useful for social prospecting here.

Ready to experiment with going beyond your @-replies?

Here's how to get started with a basic social listening strategy on a few key social networks:

How to Find Leads on Twitter

1.) Do a Twitter search
Plug those handy keywords you just generated into the Twitter search bar. Try different variations of your keywords, and be sure to search at different times of the day. See a tweet that you like? Head over to the user's profile and read more to determine if they would be a good prospect to contact directly

2.) Does the location of your client matter?
Use Twitter's advanced search functions to specify a geography if you're in a location-based business (like a real estate agent, say, or a tradesman).

3.) Strike up a conversation
You can directly "reply" to a tweet with a link, a friendly conversation starter, an image, or a link to your informative, original content. Once the user is following you, then you can also directly send them a private message if you want to cultivate a more in-depth conversation.

How to Find Leads on Facebook

1.) Use Graph Search
On Facebook, you can use the same keywords you already generated, but in a more expansive way. Instead of simply searching "gardening," say, you can search for "Friends of My Friends who like organic gardening" or "People who like home brew and Beer and live in Chicago, Illinois." Be creative, and try a lot of different combinations of your keywords and potential audiences, as you might when setting up the targeting for a paid ad on Facebook

2.) Sift through the search results
You'll probably get some relevant Pages, people "talking" about your search topics, and an assortment of Events, Apps, Places, and Groups pertaining to your terms as well. All of these can be valuable entry-points for finding new prospects, so don't hesitate to explore and engage!

3.) Follow up on the search
You can directly message a person that needs your help, keep tabs on a page for later, make plans to attend a relevant event... many different kinds of leads can come from Facebook.

On Facebook, you'll also want to keep an eye on your own message inbox, your testimonial/review page, and the comments that spring up under your shared posts - all of these can present the opportunity to discuss a topic or give some further details to a curious user one-on-one. While Facebook's rules about publishing may seem to be in constant flux, one thing is constant - good customer service and attention to detail will always help you gain new leads. 

How to Find Leads on Pinterest

1.) Use your keywords - with #hashtags
Plug in those keywords that you, by now, know and love - just add a few #hashtags along the way (#gardening, #landscaping, #lawncare). Try a few different ones and make note of which hashtags yield the most results.

2.) Pair your popular hashtags together
After exploring your keywords, try searching multiple hashtags at a time (#gardening + #lawncare + #organic). Again, try different combinations and see what results emerge. 

3.) Does the location of your client matter?
Add a hashtag for your locale if you're trying to limit your results to your service area: "#lawncare #DIY #chicago" may, for instance, be a productive search. 

4.) Click through the "pins" to find your leads
Once you've found a few seemingly applicable pins, click through the pins to find client pages or group websites that you think could use your service, then consider how best to engage with them. Think creatively when it comes to Pinterest (which doesn't really emphasize direct contact or messaging); if a particular pin isn't a direct lead to you getting business, maybe you found some pages that you can use to gain some hits and backlinks by, say, sharing a blog post or infographic you've created.

Above all, remember - you may need to send some emails or reach out on a different website, but the results could be worth it!

How to Find Leads on LinkedIn

1.) Use your keywords to find Groups
To the left of your search bar, select "Groups" from the drop-down menu. Type in your keywords, and see what kind of applicable professional or interest groups pop up.

2.) Pare down the Groups as you see fit
See which groups you have connections in, speak your native language, or are based in your area. Whatever the case, LinkedIn is used for networking, so prospects are absolutely waiting to be found here, looking to connect or, at the very least, educate themselves with your content. 

3.) Send messages, join Groups
Follow up with these groups. Even just joining them will allow members to see articles you post, or services you offer - while being able to listen to what these people have to say. Making connections here is an essential part of the LinkedIn marketing experience.

The Bottom Line?

Using social media to listen is one of the most important ways business owners can authentically communicate with prospective clients.

Instead of shouting your own praises from every social media mountaintop, prove your worth and foster some real connections by making the extra effort to hear what it is that your clients really want.

It's about more than immediate business, as well. Listening on social media can lead to great new professional connections, introduce you to local networking events, or even provide insight into ways that you could be running your own business a little bit better - perhaps even by guiding your content creation process, allowing you to better reach your ideal audience in the future.

Want a little help getting started with a social listening strategy? Unsure what keywords will work for you? Need to create some original content? That's where the Geek team comes in! Send us a message or give us a call, and we'd be happy to get started on the right path to social media marketing success in all its forms!

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).